Frith at the Royal Society, October 2012
25 May 1941
|Thesis||Pattern Detection in Normal and Autistic Children (1968)|
|Doctoral advisor||Neil O'Connor|
|Institutions||University College London (Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience)|
Uta Frith (née Aurnhammer; born 25 May 1941) is a German developmental psychologist working at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. She has pioneered much of the current research into autism and dyslexia, and has written several books on the two subjects arguing for autism to be considered a mental condition rather than being caused by parenting. Her book Autism: Explaining the Enigma introduces the cognitive neuroscience of autism. She is credited for creating the Sally-Anne test along with fellow scientist Alan Leslie and Simon Baron-Cohen. She also pioneered the work with child dyslexia. Among the students she has mentored are Tony Attwood, Maggie Snowling, Simon Baron-Cohen and Francesca Happé.
Frith was born Uta Aurnhammer in Rockenhausen, a small village in the hills between Luxembourg and Mannheim in Germany. She attended the Saarland University in Saarbrücken with her initial plan for her education in art history, but changed to experimental psychology after learning of its empirical nature. She was inspired by the work of many psychologist and psychoanalyst, such as Hans Eysenck, and decided to train in clinical psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. While at the Institute of Psychiatry, she worked closely with Jack Rachman. She went on to complete her Doctor of Philosophy, on pattern detection in neurotypical and autistic children, in 1968.
Frith's research paved the way for a theory of mind deficit in autism. While she was a member of the Cognitive Development Unit (CDU) in London, in 1985 she published with Alan M. Leslie and Simon Baron-Cohen the article Does the autistic child have a "theory of mind"?, which proposed that people with autism have specific difficulties understanding other people's beliefs and desires. Frith, along with Alan Leslie and Simon Baron-Cohen, created two theories of autism. The first is "lack of implicit mentalization" – lack of the ability to know ones own mental state. The second is "weak central coherence", by which she suggested that individuals with autism are better than typical at processing details, but worse at integrating information from many different sources. Frith was one of the first neuro-scientists to recognize "autism as a condition of the brain rather than the result of cold parenting." In 1985, Frith, Leslie, and Baron-Cohen created the Sally-Anne test to measure a child's cognitive understanding. A child with autism would generally get the Sally-Anne questions incorrect, while a typical child or a child with Down Syndrome would generally get the questions correct. In 1996, Frith, Eraldo Paulesu, and Maggie Snowling conducted a longitudinal research study showing that, while completing tasks requiring phonological processing, people with autism show a lack of connectivity between the front and back of their brain.
She was one of the first in the UK to study Asperger's syndrome, at CDU London. Her work focused on reading development, spelling and dyslexia. Frith attacked the theory that dyslexia was linked to lack of intelligence or caused by impairment in visual recognition. In 1980, she published a book on dyslexia, recounting how patients with dyslexia can be perfectly apt readers, but have persistent spelling errors, whereas it had commonly been thought was that the two entities were not mutually exclusive. Her research, along with Maggie Snowling's, showed that dyslexics tend to struggle with phonological processing.
She has been supported through her career by the Medical Research Council at University College London. Frith is an active collaborator at the Interacting Minds Centre at Aarhus University in Denmark. The goal of the centre is to provide a trans-disciplinary platform, upon which the many aspects of human interaction may be studied. The project is based in part on a paper written with Chris Frith: Interacting Minds – a Biological Basis.
Supporting women in science
Frith has advocated the advancement of women in science, in part by developing a support network called Science & Shopping, which she hopes will "encourage women to share ideas and information that are inspiring and fun." She also co-founded the UCL Women network, "a grassroots networking and social organization for academic staff (postdocs and above) in STEM at UCL," in January 2013. In 2015 she was named chair of the Royal Society's Diversity Committee, where she has written about unconscious bias and how it affects which scientists receive grants.
In the media
On 11 May 2012 Frith appeared as a guest on the American PBS Charlie Rose television interview show. On 4 December she appeared as a guest on the "Brain" episode of BBC Two's Dara Ó Briain's Science Club.
Frith has written on the visibility of women in science, by promoting an exhibition on female scientist portraits at The Royal Society in 2013.
From 31 March to 4 April 2014, to coincide with World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April, she was the guest of Sarah Walker on BBC Radio 3's Essential Classics. On 1 April 2014, she featured in "Living with Autism", an episode of the BBC's Horizon documentary series.
On 13 December 2017 Frith gave an interview to the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, in which she talked about her early life and her passion for autism research in children.
Frith is also active on twitter (@utafrith).
Frith was elected a Fellow of the British Academy and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2001, a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2005, an Honorary Fellow of the British Psychological Society in 2006, a member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in 2008, an Honorary Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge in 2008, a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences in 2012, an Honorary Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2012, and a Williams James Fellow Award in 2013. In 2009, Uta Frith, with her husband Chris Frith, received the European Latsis Prize for their contributions to psychology research. She was President of the Experimental Psychology Society in 2006–2007. She was awarded the Mind & Brain Prize in 2010. In 2014, her and her husband won the Jean Nicod Prize. In 2015, she was listed as one of BBC's 100 Women.
Frith is married to Chris Frith, professor emeritus at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London. In 2008 a double portrait was painted by Emma Wesley. They have two sons.
In 2009 Frith and her husband jointly received the European Latsis Prize for their contribution to understanding the human mind and brain. In 2014 they were awarded the Jean Nicod Prize for their work on social cognition.
She holds the title of Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Development at University College London.
- on YouTube NatureVideoChannel, Springer Nature.
- Smith, Kerri; Baker, Noah (2016). "Back to the thesis: Late nights, typos, self-doubt and despair. Francis Collins, Sara Seager and Uta Frith dust off their theses, and reflect on what the PhD was like for them". Nature. 535 (7610): 22–25. doi:10.1038/535022a. PMID 27383967.
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- DBE (Hon), FRS, FBA, FMedSci.
- Frith, Uta. BnF Catalogue général. catalogue.bnf.fr (in French). Retrieved 10 April 2018.
- Houston, R. A.; Frith, Uta (2000). Autism in history: the case of Hugh Blair of Borgue [c. 1708–1765]. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers. ISBN 978-0-631-22088-6.
- Gilles Trehin (2006). Urville. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN 978-1-84310-419-3.
- Elisabeth Hill; Frith, Uta (2004). Autism, mind, and brain. Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-852924-8.
- Frith, Uta (1991). Autism and Asperger syndrome. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-38608-1.
- Frith, Uta (2008). Autism. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-1992-0756-5.
- Frith, Uta (1983). Cognitive Processes in Spelling. London, UK: Academic Press. ISBN 978-0-12-268662-7.
- Frith, Uta; Sarah-Jayne Blakemore (2005). The learning brain: lessons for education. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-2401-0.
- "Uta Frith". Association for Psychological Science - APS. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
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- Korkiakangas, Terhi; Dindar, Katja; Laitila, Aarno; Kärnä, Eija (November 2016). "The Sally-Anne test: an interactional analysis of a dyadic assessment". International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders. 51 (6): 685–702. doi:10.1111/1460-6984.12240. ISSN 1460-6984. PMID 27184176.
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- "Tony Attwood personal website". Retrieved 10 June 2015.
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- Frith, Uta (1968). Pattern detection in children with and without autism (PhD thesis). Institute of Psychiatry, London. OCLC 728381460.
- Frith, Uta (1970). "Studies in pattern detection in normal and autistic children. I. Immediate recall of auditory sequences". Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 76 (3): 413–420. doi:10.1037/h0020133. PMID 5490707.
- Frith, U. (1970). "Studies in pattern detection in normal and autistic children". Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 10 (1): 120–135. doi:10.1016/0022-0965(70)90049-4. PMID 5459646.
- Profile, University College London. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
- "Looking back: My mentors Beate Hermelin and Neil O'Connor". Retrieved 10 June 2015.
- List of publications from Microsoft Academic.
- Baron-Cohen, Simon; Leslie, Alan M.; Frith, Uta (October 1985). "Does the autistic child have a "theory of mind"?". Cognition. 21 (1): 37–46. doi:10.1016/0010-0277(85)90022-8. PMID 2934210. Pdf.
- Anon (2005). "Professor Uta Frith DBE FBA FMedSci FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org website where:
"All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License." --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
- "Attachment Theory Expanded: Mentalization". Retrieved 1 May 2020.
- Frith, Uta (2008). "Weak central coherence (p. 90 ff.)". Autism. A Very Short Introduction. ISBN 9780199207565.
- Happé, F.; Frith, U. (2006). "The Weak Coherence Account: Detail-focused Cognitive Style in Autism Spectrum Disorders". Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 36 (1): 5–25. doi:10.1007/s10803-005-0039-0. PMID 16450045.
- Kellaway, Kate (17 February 2013). "Uta Frith: 'The brain is not a pudding; it is an engine'". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
- Paulesu, Eraldo; Frith, Uta; Snowling, Margaret; Gallagher, Alison; Morton, John; Frackowiak, Richard S. J.; Frith, Christopher D. (1996). "Is developmental dyslexia a disconnection syndrome?". Brain. 119 (1): 143–157. doi:10.1093/brain/119.1.143. ISSN 0006-8950. PMID 8624677.
- Uta Frith (1991),"Asperger and his syndrome". Uta Frith, ed., Autism and Asperger syndrome, pp. 1–36. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Frith, Uta; Snowling, Maggie (23 November 2007). "Reading for meaning and reading for sound in autistic and dyslexic children". British Journal of Developmental Psychology. 1 (4): 329–342. doi:10.1111/j.2044-835x.1983.tb00906.x. ISSN 0261-510X.
- "Spotlight on Uta Frith". 10 July 2013.
- "interactingminds.au.dk". interactingminds.au.dk.
- Frith, C.D.; Frith, U. (26 November 1999). "Interacting minds—a biological basis". Science. 286 (5445): 1692–1695. doi:10.1126/science.286.5445.1692. PMID 10576727.
- "Science&shopping". sites.google.com.
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- Frith, Uta (1 July 2013). "Invisible women of science – now appearing at the Royal Society". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
- "BBC Radio 3 – Essential Classics, Monday – Sarah Walker with Uta Frith". BBC. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
- "Living with Autism". BBC. 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
- "OCD: A Monster in my Mind". BBC.
- "What Makes a Psychopath?". BBC.
- "Uta Frith (@utafrith) | Twitter". twitter.com. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
- "Honorary DBE". Retrieved 19 July 2015.
- "Professors Chris and Uta Frith win European Latsis Prize". 19 November 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
- "Mind & Brain Prize - Mente e Cervello". www.mentecervello.it. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
- "2014 Jean Nicod Prize". Institut Nicod.
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|Scholia has an author profile for Uta Frith.|
- Official website
- Profile, ICN Developmental Group
- Profile, UCL IRIS (Institutional Research Information Service)
- Interview with Uta Frith
- "Exploring Autism – A conversation with Uta Frith", Ideas Roadshow (29 March 2013)
- A historical look at the transition from "mentally defective" etc. to autism, August 2014, by Uta Frith
- Frith, Uta (October 2014). "Autism - are we any closer to explaining the enigma?". The Psychologist. 27. British Psychological Society. pp. 744–745.